Columbia University Medical Center

Summer Programs Host Minority Students Aspiring to Health Care Careers

More than 170 college students participated this summer in CUMC programs designed to interest more minorities in health care careers. The students participated in college-level coursework, financial planning workshops, test preparation, hands-on field experience, and tours of medical center facilities—all with the goal of exposing them to health care careers and the process of applying to medical, dental, and public health schools.

Minorities represent 26 percent of the American population but much smaller percentages of health care workers in all roles. The CUMC programs, and programs elsewhere, were created to increase the number of minority students in the pipeline to careers in fields including medicine, dentistry, nursing, and public health.

pipeline public health scholars

Students in the Summer Public Health Scholars Program visit migrant farmworker health and community centers in Goshen, N.Y.

This summer, 47 undergraduate students attended the Summer Public Health Scholars Program, which is intended to stimulate interest in public health and biomedical science careers. The program is a partnership of Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Dental Medicine, School of Nursing, and Mailman School of Public Health. Funding for the program comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.

One participant, Richmond Laryea, says the program opened his eyes to the impact of public health. “I initially wanted to do an MD track and be a cardiac surgeon,” he says. “However, with my experience in public health, I’ve learned that I want to look into a community approach to help others as a whole, instead of just helping an individual person.”

The program is for college students entering their junior or senior year and recent college graduates. This year’s participants did internships with the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership, BOOM! Health, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, New York City’s correctional health services, and other health agencies.

The Summer Medical & Dental Education Program hosted 80 students at CUMC this summer. The six-week residential program is for first- and second-year college students interested in careers in medicine and dentistry. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program is hosted at several universities across the nation to help students who represent economic, geographic, cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity gain admission to medical or dental school. The original program, the Minority Medical Education Program, was first hosted at Columbia in 2002. The program name changed to the Summer Medical Education Program in 2004 and the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program in 2006.

Participants attended seminars about specialties in both health professions and gained practical experiences through clinical rotations or experience in dental labs. The goal of the program is both to introduce students to the variety of careers available in medicine and dentistry and to prepare them for successful application to dental or medical school.

The Northeast Regional Alliance MedPrep Program, commonly referred to as MedPrep, hosted 50 students on campus this summer. MedPrep has similar goals for traditionally underrepresented and/or economically disadvantaged first- and second-year New York City college students interested in developing the skills and competencies important to success on the medical school admission exam and application. Students attend the program for three summers.

The program is sponsored by the Northeast Regional Alliance MedPrep Program, a partnership of Columbia, New Jersey Medical School, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the Manhattan Staten Island Area Health Education Center. The program is funded by a grant from the Health Careers Opportunity Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration.

Read more about pipeline and diversity programs:

Marlene Solano, the NYC Summer Youth Employment Program participant assigned to CUMC Communications, conducted interviews of students attending pipeline programs this summer.

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